Sermon: Funeral of Doyle Murry
27 April 2014
Text: John 20:19-31 (Ez 37:1-14, 1 John 5:4-10)
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Dear Deb, Danielle, Holly, Lorraine, family, friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, and honored guests. As our Lord said to His disciples upon rising from the dead: “Peace be with you.”
I know that for Doyle’s family, this has been one of the hardest and most trying weeks of your lives. And I also know that it has been a time of love and comfort and closeness within your family. Your church family grieves with you as well, and supports you during this time of sadness and loss.
Sometimes people will try to bring comfort to those who mourn by saying things that are just not true. But here is what is true, dear friends:
Death is not a part of life. Death is not natural. Death is not our friend. Death is the enemy. It is ugly and unnatural. It is the opposite of life. Death is the wages of sin. Death is what each one of us deserves because of our own sins and because of the original sin of Adam and Even in the Garden. For their sinful nature has been handed down to us ever since. Death is bitter and awful. There is nothing good about it.
There is an ancient statue that says all of this without a single word. It’s known as the Pieta. It shows Mary holding the lifeless body of her Son Jesus in her arms. [The casket selected by Doyle’s family has this powerful image on it, around the base]. The pain and anguish on the face of our Lord’s mother captures the grief of a mother mourning her beloved Son. It powerfully illustrates the pain caused by death – which even came to our Lord Jesus Christ. And the reason is sin. Not His, but ours.
For as we all confessed together in the very words of scripture: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” And our only hope is to have a champion who can forgive our sins and conquer death for us. And that Champion is our Lord Jesus Christ, who died in order that we may live. He paid for our sins at the cross, and as St. Paul teaches us in the Book of Romans, when we are baptized into the Lord, we are baptized into His death, and St. Paul then explains: “If we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”
But living in this fallen world as we do, dear friends, we all experience the loss of our loved ones. There are no exceptions. It is part of the world we live in, a fallen world of sin and suffering. And it comes to all of us, whether we are 27 years old, 107 years old, or 7 days old. No-one is exempt from death, and our loved ones will grieve – even as we will grieve our loved ones.
To deal with this reality, some people just never think about it or talk about it. Some people deal with it by making up stories about people becoming angels or ghosts or by believing that death simply ends our existence. Some people believe in things like reincarnation. But we have the explanation, dear brothers and sisters. We know why we die, and we know what happens. And as sad as we are to lose Doyle in this life, on this side of the grave, there is happiness and joy for all Christians in eternity who die in the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ!
For the same lifeless body held in the arms of His mother, the body of Jesus, was laid into a tomb, and on the third day, He rose again. And He promises the same resurrection to His redeemed people, as St. Mark teaches us in his Gospel: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
The resurrection of Jesus is not a myth or a story. Even the enemies of Jesus could not explain away the empty tomb. You can still visit it today, as today it is a church. It’s still there. We celebrate something remarkable during this Easter season, because it is not our common experience for people to simply rise from the dead so as to live forever. But this is true for Jesus, and true for us Christians. For the one who rose that first Easter promises that we too will rise, that our bodies will be raised just like the magnificent vision that Ezekiel saw of the dry bones being reassembled in the valley, covered with flesh, and having the spirit breathed into them. “Thus says the Lord to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live…. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live.”
This is a promise from Him who rose from the dead and came back to tell us all about it. He promises that we shall live.
But it is hard to believe, isn’t it? To see a casket closed makes it difficult to imagine our graves being opened. But that is the promise. And it is okay that this is tough to believe. For think about Thomas, dear friends. All over the world, this very week, Christians have listened to the Gospel account of Doubting Thomas. In his own grief, he struggled to believe.
Jesus came to Him, not to scold or condemn, but to save, saying: “Peace be with you” and showing Thomas His wounded hands and side. Thomas then believed in Jesus, saying, “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus lovingly invited Thomas, saying: “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” And then Jesus, speaking about all of us, says: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Jesus is speaking of faith, of belief. That, dear friends, makes all the difference. Yes, we mourn, but not in the same way as unbelievers do. For we have hope. Hope of eternal life, hope of the forgiveness of sins, hope of a reunion with Doyle and with all those who died in Christ. That hope is borne of the Word, as St. John said to us again: “Jesus did many other signs… which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
That same apostle John also testifies in God’s Word: “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.”
And he says: “Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”
Dear friends, Mary’s grief-stricken face was to be replaced by unspeakable joy as her Son rose again from the dead. And better even than that, Jesus offers eternal life to all who are baptized and who believe. Jesus overcomes sin and death and the grave. Jesus conquers Satan on our behalf.
Jesus lives! The victory's won!
Death no longer can appall me;
Jesus lives! Death's reign is done!
From the grave will Christ recall me.
Brighter scenes will then commence;
This shall be my confidence.
“Peace be with you.”
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Hison the sickness of sinto the next - and d w liars and sons of the devil, tament, a bloodye people on In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.